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'Old New Year', Off-Broadway and off-kilter

Lost and Found present this interesting look at the modern Russian Jewish experience in a Harlem loft

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In a converted, semi-dilapidated loft space nine actors dart about amongst movable scenery. They tell the stories of a disenfranchised generation struggling to find love and meaning in their lives. They are all connected in some way to the modern Russian Jewish experience, and they are all, in some way, lost. Throughout the play they are followed by a strange man who promises the advent of a land of happiness, he videos them on a live camera feed that is projected on one wall. The stories of two divorcees, a limo driver, an unhappy married couple, a lost soul, and a confused daughter are played out, seemingly for the audience's amusement. By the end, no one is happy, although the strange man with the camera keeps promising it…

In Boris Zilberman's Old New Year we see a marriage of unusual style and questionable substance. Actors gamely throw themselves into the text, and are able to elicit a reaction from the audience, however the lack of a compelling narrative leaves them with a Sisyphean struggle. The different threads of story that weave themselves together are, taken individually, pedestrian. There seems remarkably little at stake, and little or no reason to root for any of the characters. Put together they are, handily, non-confusing and un-convoluted. However, they lack weight and are structurally weak. These people seem to slog away at a problem in as ineffectual a manner as possible, apparently making no attempts to fix their lives in a meaningful way. It's hard to get behind any of these people when they are, to a person, apparently, purposefully ineffectual.

From a stylistic point of view this show does ascend higher than average. The gimmick of the wandering live streaming camera is well executed, and provides dynamic visual juxtapositions for the audience that border on cinematic. Gera Sandler's movement work for the actors moving through the space is definitely interesting, and their use of the structures and props around them borders on modern dance. All of this is fascinating set dressing, and one can only wish that the story it was supporting were stronger and more dynamic.

Lost and Found's Old New Year is never able to rise above its status as a thoughtful experiment. It is not a disaster, but neither is it the life-changing, genre-defying work it seems to set out to be. It also feels a lot longer than it needs to. It could benefit greatly from an editor's shears. Most of all it could benefit from a more satisfying resolution, instead of the idiosyncratic, vaguely Faustian, deus ex machina that it presents instead. Recommended for the die-hard indie-theatre fan, but the conventional theatre goer will likely feel in over their head in this one.

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